Google launched Google Health (1) in early 2008 as a web based personal health record (PHR) system for consumers to store their own health records. Members are allowed to maintain, store and update their own health care records, as well as limited ability to upload medical records from partner hospitals, providers, and pharmacies. The service is currently free, although members must have a Google account. The main competitor in this arena is Microsoft HealthVault (2), which offers similar features.
The benefits of a PHR are perceived to be patient centered control of one’s own health information, as well as improved access to this information across a multitude of settings. (3)
Consumers can manually enter their own health information such as medications, allergies, immunizations, procedures, medical conditions, and test results. Existing paper medical records can be converted and imported by third party websites for a fee.
It is possible to electronically import medical records from a handful of major health plans such as the Cleveland Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare among others. Many major pharmacies as well as the CVS MinuteClinic also provide access to patient information via Google Health.
Security and Privacy
In addition to the personal health record, Google Health offers a variety of links to online health services, predominantly focused on laboratory and prescription medication providers. General health and wellness links, as well as specialized cardiac and diabetic health websites are also available.
Future of Google Health and other PHRs
The future of PHRs is unknown. PHRs provide the greatest degree of individual control. However, many enterprise electronic medical record (EMR) systems now offer patient portals (5) which provide patients access to their medical records within that system in a secure fashion via the internet. In addition, the developing Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) (6) offer an alternative means to aggregate an individual’s health information from a variety of sources, although these are usually only accessible by providers, not consumers. The security and privacy of web based PHRs will likely remain a concern.
An important update about Google Health Google Health will be discontinued as a service.
The product will continue service through January 1, 2012.
After this date, you will no longer be able to view, enter or edit data stored in Google Health. You will be able to download the data you stored in Google Health, in a number of useful formats, through January 1, 2013.
- Healthcare Informatics 2009 February;25(14):45-49
Submitted by Joel D Lafleur MD